Discovery Networks to launch Destination America
By Gary Levin, USA TODAY Updated 4h 13m ago
Discovery Networks couldn't make Planet Green sprout, so the former tree-hugging network is being transformed into the unabashedly patriotic Destination America, the company will announce Wednesday.
The new channel, launching in 59 million homes on Memorial Day, aims for a manly version of TLC's audience, says CEO David Zaslav, with shows about food, travel, adventure and natural history aimed squarely at a between-the-coasts crowd.
"We became convinced there was an opening there to build a channel based on middle America, strong values, behavior and customs," Zaslav says.
Original series include Fast Food Mania, hosted by Jon Hein, due June 3. "We're going all over the country to the best fast-food places to see what makes them work," says Hein, who hosts a similar show on Howard Stern's satellite-radio channel. "Chances are, if you've been on the road and seen the sign, we've been there."
BBQ Pitmasters, a former TLC series, returns with new episodes on May 30. Later this summer, look for Ghost Town Gold, Cheating: Las Vegas (about casino scams), the meat-focused United States of Food and theme-park show Super Duper Thrill Rides.
And hedging bets, the channel also will borrow liberally from its siblings, airing reruns of Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs, Storm Chasers and Cash Cab, and TLC's MiamiInk and its tattoo-parlor spinoffs. The food and travel focus are a natural: After selling Travel Channel in 2007, the company has had no network specifically focusing on either topic, though TLC has had luck with food-centric shows such as Cake Boss.
"It's quintessential counterprogramming to many of the negative stories" about issues that divide Americans, says Henry Schleiff, the channel's president, and "represents optimism, hope and a return to grass roots. It's not that some of these themes don't exist on other networks, but what is special here is we are a one-stop destination for all of these stories from an American perspective."
Planet Green, which replaced Discovery Home in 2008 just as the environmental movement peaked, used celebrities as a draw and seemed like "it was a great idea, and it turns out that it wasn't," Zaslav says. "The feedback from viewers was that … programming about the environment was not entertaining enough. We knew pretty clearly, about two years in, that we just weren't gaining momentum."
The channel dropped the last of its green programming about nine months ago and has been building ratings by airing borrowed reruns from other Discovery channels as it refined the new concept.
Discovery has had a mixed record in refashioning channels under Zaslav's watch: Investigation Discovery has been a hit, but two joint ventures, the Oprah Winfrey Network and The Hub, have had difficulty gaining early ratings traction.http://www.usatoday.com/life/televis...ica/53982082/1